Gender/Sex and Sexual Diversity via Sexual Configurations Theory: Insights From a Qualitative Study With Gender and Sexual Minorities

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Sexual configurations theory (SCT; van Anders, 2015) provides theoretical and methodological tools for describing, understanding, and studying gender/sex and sexual diversity. It may be of use to sexuality and gender researchers, as well as clinicians, activists, and individuals, but has not been empirically tested. In the present study, we tested the qualitative application of SCT in interviews with 25 gender and sexual minority participants and addressed 2 research questions: RQ1 (“Insights”): what features of partnered sexualities and gender/sex emerge from individuals’ engagement with SCT diagrams? and RQ2 (“Utility”): how might SCT be useful for qualitative research with sexual and gender minorities? We thematically analyzed participants’ engagement with SCT and its diagrams in the interviews. Results showed that SCT and its diagrams allowed participants to represent diverse experiences with their partnered sexualities and gender/sexes, and also to articulate nuanced conceptualizations of the structure and significance of SCT parameters, including gender/sex sexuality, partner number sexuality, and individual gender/sex, in their own lives. We discuss implications of our findings for qualitative research with sexual and gender minorities, social justice, and sexual and gender diversity more broadly.

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